Graceland 2×07 ‘Los Malos’: Further down

Graceland - Season 2

There’s a lot about “Los Malos” that sets up interesting plot points and interesting ideas for future episodes, but there’s a lot that runs in place and convolutes the already problematic storyline.  Because of Graceland’s heavy emphasis on plot progression as opposed to character development (even though there’s certainly more character development than before), the plot can sometimes be too complex for its own good, having quite a few strands up in the air that don’t seem to connect or feel as important as they should.

Graceland - Season 2

Source: USA

The reason that I liked “The Unlucky One” as much as I did is that it really took Paige and dove into the heart of darkness, showing us the evil that the members of Graceland were really up against.  “Los Malos” reminds us of the cost of that evil’s exposure on Paige, but the emphasis on an entirely new storyline weakened the focus on older storylines that were vastly more interesting in the first place.  Knowing now that the guy who called Carlito was working on the LAPD task force, Mike chooses to go at him from quite a few different angles, and it’s mixing it up like that which makes the story too complicated, asking us to care about additional plot lines when there a few perfectly good ones already in play.

Graceland - Season 2

Source: USA

Briggs’ integration into the LAPD task force as an undercover agent works to get him closer to Markham, and while his conversation with Charlie orients his experience as one that is going to have a cost on him, there isn’t a whole lot of tension to the storyline.  This is mostly because Graceland is giving us a bunch of different ways that Markham (a character we know nothing about) could be caught, so Briggs doesn’t have to succeed in order to take him down.  Not to mention that we don’t know enough about Markham to care about what happens to him, especially considering that Johnny’s storyline contains periphery characters we actually know enough about to care.  So when Briggs is trying to impress Markham, it’s difficult to know how to feel about the whole storyline when we don’t know how evil or decent Markham really is.  Sure, he killed the guy who ran the busses, but past that, we don’t understand the extent of his motivation (past him having a family).

Graceland - Season 2

Source: USA

There’s also the issue of the time jump at the beginning of the episode, flying back and forth between certain times in order to give us information about Markham that we already really knew.  We knew at the end of the previous episode that Markham had called Carlito and killed the guy who ran the busses, so what was the point of jumping around to replay these incidences for us?  It’s Graceland not trusting its audience to follow along, and that can be immensely frustrating.  It’s essentially a waste of the first five minutes of the episode.  Aside from that, Mike and Charlie following the money becomes tedious when it looks like it’s going to be leading to another convoluted plotline which involves stealing the money from a bank.

Graceland 2x07-3

Source: USA

That being said, I really enjoyed Johnny’s storyline, even if it was somewhat predictable that he and Lucia were going to end up together.  Because the notion that intentions aren’t going to save you, that you’re in over your head in a world that’s darker than you can imagine, are ideas that I can always get on board with.  Johnny wants to take down Carlito, but he also wants to save Lucia.  He wants to get in his the Solano family, but isn’t able to differentiate his own feelings from his fake ones.  When Jakes chews him out at the end of the episode, it borders on explaining too much again and shedding subtlety, but it was still great to see Johnny dive further down the rabbit hole, unaware of how he’s going to be damaging himself in the end.  Because there’s no happy ending for Johnny and Lucia, at least no happy ending that would make sense.  When Carlito goes down, they’re finished, and Johnny may even realize that.  But he wants what he wants, and when he kisses Lucia at the end of the episode, it’s less of a sweet moment and more gut-wrenching because we know he’s diving deeper into the abyss.

And it’s here that we see where Graceland’s true strengths lie, in its ability to dive into darkness and show the effect it has on the characters involved.  Sure, it’s never going to match up against brilliant shows like True Detective or Fargo, but it can at least explore interesting ideas and their impact on the show’s characters.  It’s when Graceland functions as a USA drama, complete with comic relief and sexiness for the sake of it, that it begins to show a two-faced quality.  It wants to be dark and serious, but it also wants to be lighthearted and fun.  And it can be both, but it has to integrate the two approaches into something more singular and cohesive.  And while Season 2 of Graceland has certainly been an improvement over the first, it hasn’t transcended this one failing.

So what did you think of “Los Malos”?  Do you think something bad is going to happen to Johnny?  Let me know in the comments!

Michael St. Charles

is just a Michigan State University grad who loves a good story. If he’s not off teaching the young ones how to solve quadratic functions or to write an expository essay, he’s watching old-school HBO shows, indie horror movies, or he’s playing Resident Evil 4.

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